Jim Leathers: Leading south Norfolk businessman

A leading south Norfolk businessman, Jim Leathers, who has died aged 78, followed in his great grandfather's footsteps by starting his own seed firm.

He had been encouraged by his grandfather, Harry, to return to the family seed concern, Cannell's, which had an international reputation. But after the business had been sold to then-Docking based Milne Marsters in the 1960s, he started Loddon Garden and Seed Centre with his brother-in-law Keith Todd.

It quickly flourished, partly because of the strong following from local farmers and growers. Mr Leathers decided to retire after 40 years in business when he was 68.

James Robert Claude Leathers was born at Sisland, where his father farmed. His mother was a Cannell and a granddaughter of the founder, William George, who had a reputation for quality seeds, notably with crops including kale, fodder beet and mangels.

Jim as he was always known to school in Loddon, then Bracondale in Norwich, before becoming one of the first to start at Langley Hall, where he was head boy. His son, Stuart, was also to become head boy.

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He did National Service in the Royal Air Force and made newspaper headlines as a teenager, when he became a qualified pilot in Canberra jets. With natural talent as a pilot, he did consider a career in aviation but his grandfather, Harry promised a directorship in the family firm. Later, he became general manager and Mr Todd works manager.

Later, they acquired the site of the former Jolly Farmers in Loddon, where they ran their business. They also sold bulk grass and vegetable seeds to farmers alongside the retail business.

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He was churchwarden and treasurer of St Ethelbert, Thurton, for many years and was also chairman of the governors of the village school.

He enjoyed sports, playing for Norwich RFC as a young man, and then cricket for Ashby and Thurton. A keen supporter of the boy scouts, he was a former treasurer of Langley School scouts.

Married for 57 years, he leaves a widow Eileen, son Stuart and grandchildren Emily and William.

A funeral service, which was attended by about 400 people, has taken place.

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